Songkran today is still the most important of all the Thai festivals and holidays. It marks the beginning of a new astrological year and is much in keeping with the old lunar calendar of Siam. It is officially celebrated this year on April 12, but the festival actually takes place over a period of four days. It includes the 'Troot Festival' discussed above as well as all the merit-making at Buddhist temples and the ultimate Songkran, or The Pouring of Water ritual, by which we have come to identify Songkran with today. Each year, the four-day celebration of Songkran consists of many activities, and these are briefly explained below.
April 12 is Wan Sungkharn Lohng. This is a day for house cleaning and general preparation for the New Year. In the evening it is traditional for Thais to dress up as a signal of the coming new year. In Chiangmai, the Songkran procession is held on this day. This is a parade through Chiangmai comprised of Buddha images and attendants on floats, which are accompanied by minstrels and the town's people. The procession begins at Nawarat Bridge on the Mae Ping River and moves the Thapae Gate before approaching its final destination of Wat Prasingh.
April 13 is Wan Nao. On this day people prepare cooked meals and preserved food for the Buddhist merit-making that takes place on the following day. Activities at Wat Prasingh continue on this day and in the evening local residents go to the banks of the Mae Ping River and gather sand to be deposited in piles topped by flowers in the temples. This practice is the ancient "raising the temple grounds" ritual which was necessary in the old days because then Thai New Year was held at the end of the rainy season in the first month of the old Thai Lunar Calendar.
April 14 is Wan Payawan. On this day a grand new year begins with early morning merit-making at the temples. Preserved and cooked foods, fresh fruit, monks' robes and other offerings are made at the temples. In the home, people do the final cleaning of Buddha images using scented water. Traditionally this is the day that the pouring of water begins. It was once the practice to pour gently, but the fun-loving Thais have transposed this into a relative water free-for-all.
April 15 is Wan Parg-bpee. On this day homage is paid to ancestors, elders and other persons deserving respect because of age of position. This is called 'Rohd Nam Songkran', meaning 'The Pouring of Songkran Water', and the water is sprinkled on the elder persons while uttering wishes of good luck and a happy future. In Chiangmai, this is the final day of the celebration and the day on which people have built up to a crescendo of water throwing. It is the day when all family and religious obligations have been completed and the people are totally dedicated to "Sanook...Sanook."